Friday, 22 September 2017

The History of a Favourite Takeaway: Chow Mein

Chow mein is a Chinese dish that is a favourite takeaway just about anywhere it is prepared and sold. The food became a part of the culinary world for the first time in the Pearl River Delta, which is just southwest of Jiangmen in China.

Different areas in China cook chow mein differently. Whilst the chefs in Hong Kong fry the noodles to a crisp, other chefs steam chow mein noodles. A hot wok is normally used to produce the finished product. The chow mein noodle was so popular historically that it was introduced in many countries. For example, India uses a noodle similar to the chow mein noodle whilst Filipinos have their own special dish of “chow mein” and call the noodle pancit. Pancit closely resembles pasta-type noodles.

Stir-Fried Noodles

The word “chow mein” simply means stir-fried noodles. So, in its most basic form, the cuisine is a stir-fried dish that is made up of noodles, cabbage, meat, and veggies. It is frequently served as a popular dish in westernised Chinese eateries. In these restaurants, chow mein is served with soy sauce and such vegetables as bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, and celery.

Chow mein is one of the dishes of the best Chinese takeaway in Bristol. That is because this type of Chinese cuisine is nourishing and comforting. In early China, chow mein was actually eaten with a spoon. Now, everyone attempts to eat the cuisine with chopsticks. However, in Italy, connoisseurs of the food eat it with a spoon and fork or a spoon and chopsticks.

Most chow mein noodles are light tan or white. In earlier times, juices of locust leaves or radishes were added to the noodle dough. In turn, the noodles exhibited a light green or reddish tone. One early Chinese recipe book lists a noodle dish that could be considered to be chow mein. However, it does not refer to it as such. Written during the Song Dynasty, Madame Wu’s Recipe Book called for the pulling and stretching of the recipe’s noodles.

Chow Mein or Chop Suey?

Needless to say, different recipes for chow mein abound, just like stories about the cuisine. One story credits a Japanese chef for serving the dish to a visiting general. However, the story also claimed the dish was chop suey. With the variances in the story line, you can only regard it as a tall tale.

Tap seui or chop suey, which is also spelled tsa sui, means mixed pieces whilst chow mein actually means fried noodles. Either of the dishes are prepared with different seasonings depending on the site or locale where they are made. Soy sauce is usually the common seasoning whilst all the other ingredients can be different. Also, chow mein noodles can be thin or thick and made as a rope, threaded, pulled, rolled, pressed, or cut into squares or strips.

Noodles can be made with rice flour, plain rice flour, wheat, and other ingredients such as seaweed, bean threads, e-fu noodles, etc. In China, the dish incorporates all the fundamental flavours of salty, bitter, sweet, and sour. This type of variation makes the takeaway dish a memorable eating experience.

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